Rented Space

He used to work construction. Good money, decent contracts. A living. There was always another way to live, though. A golden, sloshing way to live. Sometimes a silvery shot, one then another way to live. A liquid friend till blackout came and got him through to another bleary morning. That way to live. His doctor, when he went to see him, called it alcohol use disorder. Or at least that’s what he put down on his chart in all caps, before he referred him to a couple organizations and groups that might be able to help. Charlie didn’t see that doctor anymore after that.

By degrees, it got to where after-work-before-bed drinks started getting earlier and earlier, blurry around the edges, and he’d put on a movie on Netflix, something he’d gotten into back in film school, when he was actively pursuing his dream. A wide-eyed kid, he’d say, shrug it off now, shrug off everything–working his way through college, moving and delivering pool tables, putting everything he had into this thing, making office hours and asking how he could improve as a filmmaker, all of it behind him now, flushed down the toilet with the booze from the last time he said he’d quit but just didn’t quite get there in the end.

The end. There’s something he hasn’t seen in a while. He used to draft scripts like it was his religion, taking communion in the form of late night Taco Bell and something with more caffeine than water to keep him going through marathon writing sessions, sometimes upwards of 40 to 50 pages at a go, slicing through entire third acts like it was nothing, and this wasn’t a late night cram, either. Not some procrastination thing. These scripts weren’t even assignments, just something he wanted to do on the side.

He’d write these drafts in a fever dream, no editing, just getting the words down on the page, sometimes writing for 12 or 13 hours at a stretch. When it was done, he’d get blackout drunk until all words, thoughts, and feelings escaped him. He drank till everything in and around him ceased entirely.

And that was it. At the start, that was the only time he’d drink. He told himself it made it okay to get it out in one big binge, that it was better than stringing along drunken moments until they became a drunken life, the way his dad did. Charlie wasn’t exactly living the unexamined life. He could see the parallels, the comparisons to be made. Could watch as those one-night-only binges became two- or three-night affairs, and this he justified by simply writing more, as if the output justified the input. He could sit, and he could breathe, and he could feel this for hours. This was his legacy. His family heirloom.

He remembered taking walks down by the river, catching the light-glint in his eyes, blinking past the migraine. He took the walks because he thought he needed to be outside, but taking them he realized that he needed to be outside of this.

So he’d walk down to the water, and he’d sit on the edge with his legs hanging over it, about a six foot drop and then nothing but retention wall and water. He thought of breathing, and what it felt like not to. What it would feel like to never breathe again.

Charlie could always just see what he had to do right before it became too late. Sometimes he acted accordingly. Sometimes he didn’t. He’d wake in the middle of the night and watch as the clouds rolled by his opened window, turn and vomit onto bed sheets where it’d then congeal, and he’d pass out and rediscover it in the morning. He stopped going to class, didn’t do his assignments. It’s not like he didn’t write. He wrote like mad. Just not what they wanted him to write. He shot films using scoured old stock he found in the film cage at his school, stuff that was no good but which he pocketed anyway. Didn’t realize at the time that he was staging reenactments of his childhood in front of the camera, but it turned out that way anyway.

The thing about radical honesty, or new sincerity, or whatever it is that he was going for, is that you’re going to inevitably over-extend yourself. You’re going to reach that hall closet of the mind that you haven’t opened in decades, and you’re going to have to lock yourself in it for hours at a time.

Charlie sobers up by the light of the morning, a sickly-sweet taste in his mouth, something that won’t wash out until he drinks again. He’s definitely in a motel. He checks the little mini fridge thing, but apparently he raided it the night before. There’s a breadcrumb trail of empty cans and polished-off bottles, maybe a handle left if he was really desperate, which he is.

Charlie watches the way the dust motes hang in the air like suspended planets in rented space. He feels the clothes on his body, the blankets under the clothes.

Next Stop

While you’re reading this people are doing things like buying eggs and painting away childhood sexual abuse. Someone somewhere just kissed a child they made, half of them, the other half beside because not all stories have to be sad just because we don’t know how ours will end.

There are gnats crawling up a poet’s pants: intrepid explorers who take denim for tree bark. He composes couplets of green, many-legged beings who will never read Shakespeare but who can fly. The gnats are crawling over the pages, looking for food, not finding it.

If you stopped thinking for a year, would you lose the ability?

This one isn’t part of the story: go and free yourself on a pier, in a fluid medium, with friends, alone, set a few in a row and make something before you have to go.

The woman screaming into her phone across from you on the bus couldn’t make a sound when it happened to her, no matter how hard she bit the man’s hand.

If you don’t want to wear clothes or wait in lines or touch cards to sensors or board the train that will be arriving in approximately four (4) minutes, you don’t have to.

You care more than you think.

One of the gnats was squished between the pages and became a man. The woman on the bus will bite every partner she has from now on, even if she doesn’t want to. There’s one who builds a lude pile on her son’s CCD homework. She’s covering up excommunication and Eucharist with bottles prescribed by another one, born with a cleft lip in a Soviet satellite; always asked to smile on the playground, never doing so. He’ll read the gnatted pages once they’re published, wonder if he’s done anything more than flatten pages on many-legged addicts. There’s a child who dreams of becoming a tree, reads of Yggdrasil, practices in the park when M & D are playing dogpile, sprouts branches from fingertips and roots from toes by will alone.

Life can be hands grasping in the dark, hundreds of them, only ever grazing.

There’s a grandmother who hasn’t eaten in a week, who feeds her grandchildren stories and laughter, steals canned foods when she can. Her eyes are milky, light haloing around the center. She can only really see when looking askew.

Sometimes people need to read lies to know the truth.

Moonlight hits flesh in places where lips meet and flies don’t fly and the water’s sweet and cool. A descendant of Genghis Khan is kissing a relation of Cleopatra. Phones buzzing in pockets: an invitation to a party and a drunk text from a parent. The woman on the bus is standing. She is removing her shoes, the laces from them. Setting socks on grip-ridged floor. Taking off her pants.

Look outside and see your environment: its color and variation.

Her shirt now, sliding off. The bus has stopped.

Flow will come to you if you allow it.

The boy’s leaves have withered, roots dried out. M & D are done playing dogpile. Time to go inside. The eggs have been bought. Paint too. P’an Ku’s waiting on canvas to give birth to the universe, in gamboge heat playing with cerulean hues, brush swipes so fast not even the memories can keep up. The woman is laughing, maybe crying. The doctor’s hiding a cleft lip that’s no longer there, behind teeth, a nervous tic. He picks up loose articles and hands them to her. She’s accusing him, grabbing his hand, searching for tooth-shaped scars, not finding them. Grabbing the hand of the man next to him, the woman in back, the driver. She’s pulling the book from the doctor’s hands, tearing pages from it as the poet sits in the back and watches his leaves fall. Back and forth, a teeter-totter, the child’s halves on either side, applying weight and removing it to bring kid skybound and back down. The bus across from the park is stopped. A woman’s coming out. Cover his eyes, it’s nothing, just hide and seek. The grandmother is collecting a check, blessing her eyes for failing, walking the curb one step after another, eyes closed, a tightrope walker. Her grandchildren follow. The bus has started to move.

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Wannerin & Wunnerin, as featured on Flash Fiction Magazine

As promised, here’s a story I wrote that Flash Fiction Magazine published, called “Wannerin & Wunnerin”:

Deer Chri

I doan kno y we callit deer wen u aint got nantlers. N E ways I ben wunnerin wut make an homme get up n out in a morn wif a col always wisprin in yer ear liek a seecurt, only iss securt mean a stik u down ded in a dirt wif all dem hills runnin on down & up & thru liek farflies wen ey catch on yer swet & gloe in a lite a moon. I wunnerd wut appen time allandallalong far & away in loney time wen a time a storeys wuz & all a seecurts a sittys & build ins & all at wuz still roun…

Click here to read the rest of the story on Flash Fiction Magazine’s site! Thanks, guys!

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